Monday, 24 August 2015

Mental Health Monday: Mental Health and Me

I've touched briefly on my agorophobia and obsession with cleanliness on this blog but have never really talked about mental health in an open and honest way here. Inspired by Lis and by seeing Dave Chawner's show at the Free Fringe (7pm, Counting House until 30th August - go see it!) I finally feel like maybe I can start writing something about it here.

When I was 11 I was being bullied at school which meant I had no one to eat lunch with. So I stopped eating lunch.  I then figured out I could make it look like I'd had my Weetabix if I did certain things so it looked like I had eaten breakfast. I convinced my parents to give me dinner money and that I was just so full from eating my hot lunch that I could not finish my whole dinner. I basically gradually stopped eating, except when that was all I did and I would stuff my face with sweets. I figured out how to make myself vomit when I needed to. It was fairly simple, if not pleasant. I figured out that tea with a splash of milk and one sugar was really good for making me feel like I had energy (coffee made me bloated - totally not the look I was going for).

It had some pleasant side effects. My periods which had only just started, stopped. This made swimming easier, as did the fact that I basically stopped puberty so no hair was going to show up in unwanted places. I really loved swimming and I had never eaten within an hour of getting in the pool.

I was genuinely happy when puberty stopped as when I started eating enough food for puberty to start again I was appalled by having breasts. Genuinely. I saw them as two sacks of fat attached to my previously fat free chest.

There were other less pleasant side effects. I got depression and, as I am now okay to label it, I got psychosis too. I always found it weird that it was dismissed as an "over active imagination" as the things I thought were happening were not that imaginative. For example - the Undertaker from WWF (now WWE) was a regular in my hallucinations and if my imagination was better I could have created my own characters rather than stealing from a popular franchise.

My relationship with food is never easy. I do write about food and recipes on here but when my mental health is bad food becomes very tricky for me. I will eat the same food every day because it is "safe". When I try using things like My Fitness Pal as I have gained weight recently I find the calorie counting too much of a suck to pull me back into those habits around food. Finding a safe (for me) way to make healthy food choices is always going to be hard. But right now, it is REALLY hard so there have been no food posts because I cannot think of food. I post loads of pictures on my instagram but I often don't get to enjoy it because I often still eat food in a disordered way. That is part of me now. I am okay with it but sometimes I have to work extra hard.

I am currently functional because of anti-depressants. I need them right now to be able to be a passable version of what I consider to be me. And they work. They also made me lose 10lbs in 3 weeks and lots of people complimented me on my weight loss. I wanted to keep it going and use the low appetite they gave me to get even thinner but I forced myself to eat meals instead. That is something I have to do sometimes. It is also something the anti-depressants made me able to do.

The anti-depressanst are life-changing for me. I can keep going right now and that is something I did not think would be possible at my lowest point in this spell. The psychosis diagnosis is recent and applies to past experiences which means I don't currently need to go on anti-psychotics (which is great as they can make you really gain weight). I am not currently unsure of what is real and not real. That is something I was used to before, and finding out that if it gets really bad again I can take something - even with the weighty side effects - is a massive relief.

So why am I writing this? Well partly because this has been a huge part of my life I have been hiding from this blog.  For the last 18 months - 2 years as I have been in a very bad patch with my mental health. I am also partly writing this as I am no longer ashamed of this. My mental ill health does not define me and make me weak. It is however an intrinsic part of how I experience the world and something I want to take ownership of.

I found out that one in one thousand people will experience psychosis at some point in their life. That makes it as common as alzheimers. Psychosis is not the same as being a psychopath. Psychotics are mostly a risk to themselves not others and only when having a psychotic experience (though it does tend to go hand in hand with bipolar and severe depression and other mental ill health). Part of why I hid from counsellors and psychiatrists that I had psychosis (clever) was that I was genuinely worried that I would be locked up. I do not know why - this might have been part of the psychosis paranoia. It is not necessarily something that will happen to people with psychosis and it did not happen to me when I finally got my diagnosis.

I hope more people can talk more openly about this, particularly as one if four people in Scotland will have a mental health problem at some point in their lives. The more we talk about it the more people can find out how common it is; and that asking for help is totally okay and not a sign of weakness but amazingly strong. Then maybe we can all just crack on with our lives and maybe focus on more interesting things like how awesome my new red dress is, or how Parks and Rec has loads of Infinite Jest references, or whatever is happening in Made in Chelsea (seriously guys - what is up with Jamie?)

I'm gradually opening up at work about my mental health and it is accepted that it is not a big deal - it is just a thing I have and sometimes it flares up. Some people do take issue with it but the way to get them to see what is happening is to just keep talking about it. Keep showing how common it is. Keep showing how full and normal a life you can have with these conditions. Show how you can keep being good at your job even if you can't socialise after making it through a day at work holding it together. Or how you can still do amazing things - and I have done some amazing things - all while having a backdrop of some messed up things happening in your head.

This post is getting rambly now as I have not had enough sleep and Irn Bru as a meal replacement is not the best idea for a number of reasons but I just really wanted to post this. I really wanted to say this. Thank you for reading.

P.S If you want to seek help here are some resources:

BEAT: http://www.b-eat.co.uk/
Scottish Association for Mental Health: http://www.samh.org.uk/
Mind: http://www.mind.org.uk/

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

COW GIFS FOR EVERYONE

Hey there friends, I wrote a post for #FeministFest on the Megan Ford show Feminasty - go check it out - and bask in the glory of the cow gif.



via GIPHY

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Canada Travel Tales: The Mountains Said I Would Find You Here




I think I saved the best for last with these posts. 

On the final Saturday of our trip we were lucky enough to come here. J Mac (Mr Mac's brother) is a mountain man by nature and he kindly took us up to some mountains he used to work at.

He knows these mountains well having worked here for three years. He knew the territory, knew the wildlife and knew the best places to go. He also knew how to drive the ranger we got to travel about in as we explored.

Our trusty steed
 We started out by heading to the lake and having a look around. It was pretty beautiful but sadly the water and the temperature combined to make it a less than ideal spot to stop for lunch as there were a plethora of buzzing beasties.

 After ruling out the lake we went to higher ground and checked out some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen in my life. I was riding up front with J Mac and got to see all the views as they appeared. It was truly one of the best days of my life.


We stopped for a while and had home made rolls and home made scotch eggs before continuing on. Ever corner we turned presented another incredible view.

Before we left I got a photo of me in the mountains doing Pilates for the Pilates photo project run by Leith Pilates. Then we were off. I slept in the car on the way home and have been dreaming of the mountains ever since.

You cannot visit this area unless you go Cat Skiing and are therefore supervised but it is one of the best places I have ever been.

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